Obesity: A Growing Epidemic

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Obesity is an epidemic which most people are exposed to in the form of chronic health diseases. Substantial increase in the risks of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and hypertension, have all been linked to obesity. In the past fifty years, obesity has reached pandemic levels. It also contributes to a decline in life expectancy by increasing the risks of dementia, depression, cardiometabolic diseases and cancer along with reduced social advantages such as unemployment and socio-economic productivity. So far, obesity prevention strategies have not proved to be successful in the long term, and the lifestyles people adopt are complex, which makes it even more challenging to deal with this issue.

The behavioural interventions have proved to limit the efficacy of individuals because of the persistent hormonal, and neurochemical adaptations that defend against weight loss and the overall requirement of changes in the social environment for maintaining the weight loss. This requires a more profound and thorough understanding of differences, composition, habits and prevalent trends in the society to devise promising intervention strategies for the elimination of obesity from the society.


Contributing Factors

Regional differences play an essential part in the identification of trends that promote or contribute to obesity. In the past few decades, the number of obese people has increased in almost all parts of the world, mainly due to changes in the global food system and policies that influence individual food choices and eating habits. A major challenge at the present is the translation of existing knowledge regarding the causes of obesity into effective measures and prevention policies aimed to decrease obesity.

At present, 40% of the adults (age 18 and above) were overweight, and 13% of them were obese, whereas 38 million children (age 15 or less) were obese as of reports in 2019 and these numbers have tripled since 1975 which is alarming (WHO, 2020).

WHO defines obesity as:

  • BMI higher than or equal to 25: overweight
  • BMI higher than or equal to 30: Obese

These are both abnormal accumulations of fat and are often responsible for health impairments.


What is the Main Cause?

The leading cause of obesity is the imbalance between consumption and exertion in terms of calories and energy. In addition to this:

  1. Increased physical inactivity
  2. Increased intake of energy-dense foods
  3. High fat and sugar intake

Our lifestyles also have changed in the past few decades, and it has little to no room for exercise or any physical activity whatsoever. We have lifts instead of stairs; daily commuters take public transport which eliminates the chances of walking or cycling even if the distance is as little as 10 minutes. The food we eat provides minimum nutritional value, and because of the active, busy lives we live, people prefer to eat out.

Another issue is the available options at the grocery stores!

The fast-food chains and convenient options do not provide nutritional value, and this is one of the biggest reasons responsible for the growth of this epidemic.


Looking Beneath the Surface

Looking into this deeply, we can observe that:

  • Gyms and other fitness centers can be expensive and are not accessible to everybody.
  • The building and work environments lack the infrastructure to promote a healthy lifestyle, given the fact that employees usually spent 8-10 hours of their day at work.
  • Poor sleep patterns, stress and emotional factors also play a role here.
  • Too much use of computer or tech gadgets after school/work instead of going out.
  • Increased junk food options are handy and easy to grab.
  • Dietary patterns with lower physical activities have resulted in a sharp increase in obesity around the world. People consume more quantities of food but not enough nutrients which result in weight issues.
  • A tiny percentage of people calculate their calorie intake, and these are mostly fitness enthusiasts and trainers. The general public does not engage in such an activity, although it is slowly becoming a trend as various campaigns promote 'Health’ and ‘Green’ eating habits.
  • Teenagers and kids have access to foods that are high in salt, sugars and fat.

What to do now?

The main reason for highlighting all these issues is to emphasize the fact that obesity is a serious issue. As we move forward, our lifestyles become more concentrated and limited to just one table and one room.

Weight is the root cause of all major health issues, and above all, it affects your self-esteem leading to episodes of sadness and even depression in some cases. Weight is not always associated with the calorie intake, but how you live and the lifestyle you indulge in has a lot to contribute as well.

Obesity, being more than a cosmetic concern, is a medical problem that has to be taken seriously. It cannot be countered with the defense of 'body image' but with care and attention to detail!

The FDA has not evaluated these statements. The statements in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. e Consult with your doctor before making any change to your diet or beginning an exercise program.


References

Daniel Bubins, D. M. (2018, July 16). Obesity. Retrieved from HealthLine: https://www.healthline.com/health/obesity

Review, W. P. (2020, May). Most Obese Countries 2020. Retrieved from https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/most-obese-countries/

Roser, H. R. (2020). Obesity. Retrieved from Our World in Data: https://ourworldindata.org/obesity

WHO. (2020, April 1). Obesity and overweight. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight